New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday (September 20, 2021) spoke at the 6th JP Morgan ‘India Investor Summit’ and said that the country places its neighbourhood first, acts East and thinks West.
Speaking on ‘India’s Foreign Policy and Its Strategic Imperative: The Way Forward’, Shringla explained how Indian diplomacy navigates the recent turbulent and challenging international environment. He spoke about the five pillars of Indian foreign policy which guide India.
India seeks to be atmanirbhar
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that the first pillar is the very Indian nature of India’s strategic thinking and that it seeks to be atmanirbhar. “In the language of international relations, India seeks strategic autonomy. Atmanirbhar or autonomy does not mean seeking self-centred arrangements or turning the country inwards. It acknowledges that the current orthodoxies have generated an international economic order in which the distribution of economic activity has become skewed. It believes that a correction is necessary and intends to work towards this correction,” he said.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla stated that the second pillar of Indian diplomacy is its multipolar focus. He said that India places its neighbourhood first, acts East and thinks West. “These policies have been revitalized with a focus on concrete outcomes. A massive effort has been made to improve connectivity in our neighbourhood through road, railway, inland water and multi-modal linkages,” he said.
He said that India’s ‘Act East policies’ will link the country through multiple channels to ASEAN and thence to East and South East Asia and to the Indo-Pacific. The Foreign Secretary also said India’s think West policies have led to major positive changes in the content and tone of its relationships in West Asia.
International force multiplier
The third pillar of India diplomacy, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, is to act as an international force multiplier for the government. He said that the business of Indian diplomacy is business. He said that the requirement to reconfigure and diversify supply chains in order to make them more resilient and reliable provides India an opportunity to work together.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that the fourth pillar of Indian diplomacy is to be a force for global good and to be ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ in action. He said pointed out that even during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, India appreciated that it was a part of the global community. “It has done its best to ensure that it is a reliable partner in global healthcare supply chains under extreme stresses. It has made its scientific expertise, its pharma products and its vaccines available for the greater good,” he said.
Look to the future
The fifth pillar of Indian diplomacy, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, looks to the future. “We want to generate solutions – and not problems,” he added. He then spoke on climate change, the green economy and India’s participation in the G7 Summit.
China’s attempts seriously disturbed peace
During his address, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also referred to recent geopolitical challenges in India’s immediate neighbourhood, particularly in Afghanistan and China. He said that the situation reminds India that while the new realities are making themselves felt, traditional security challenges remain.
“Chinese attempts over the last year to unilaterally alter the status quo in Ladakh have seriously disturbed peace and tranquility in the border areas. These acts are in violation of our bilateral agreements and have inevitably impacted other aspects of the bilateral relationship,” he said.
Shringla added that New Delhi has made it clear to the Chinese side that peace and tranquillity in border areas are essential for the development of the India-China relationship.
Concerned about recent changes within Afghanistan
Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke on the developments in Afghanistan and said that as an immediate neighbour, India is ‘naturally concerned’ about the recent changes within the war-torn country and their implications for the Indians and the region.
“Our immediate focus in the last few weeks has been on the evacuation of Indian nationals from Afghanistan. Most Indian nationals have been able to leave Kabul in August. A number of Afghans, including minorities, who wanted to travel to India, have also been able to do so,” he said.
He said that the resumption of flights from Kabul airport is a priority and that India is closely monitoring the unfolding situation.